By Bruce Duffie

Now that Valentine's Day has come and gone again for another year, let's think a bit about the concept of LOVE.  Gentlemen, did you remember her and make the day special with a perfect gift?  And ladies, did you forgive him for bringing what he thought would be the right thing?

The question now becomes, does this token - or the mere remembrance of obtaining it - actually convey the feelings desired by both parties?  And even more important, just how does this relate to music in general, and concert-music in particular?

"Love" is all over the place in music, both specific reference and general impression.

The obvious place to start is opera.  Like all the good and bad movies today and yesterday, operas revolve around sex and violence.  And what could be a better motivation for either of those passions than "love"?  The soprano loves the tenor, but is thwarted either by circumstances, or her brother.  The tenor thinks he loves the soprano, but that's actually just an excuse for hitting a High C or two or three.  The baritone professes his love for the soprano (even though she detests him), but actually he loves power even more.  The bass loves his daughter, but must hang onto his political position.  The mezzo wants love from any of the male singers, but manages to alienate everyone before the evening is over.


The conductor loves the composer's score and will fight to the death for its presentation in what he believes is the only correct way.  The stage director loves to stir up controversy, so his ideas must be just a bit more outlandish than the previous production of the same work in another city.  And the impresario loves to fill the house with people who love to see the spectacle.


In the concert hall, the theme of love is similar, but much more subtle.  Without the blatant stage-picture to slam the message home, it's completely up to the sounds which are produced to inspire the love.  Each composer loves his sounds and hopes the public will also feel the same way after hearing the work.

So, do we actually love it?  And if we do, how do we show that love?  Applause?  Sure.  Comments to one another about the show?  Naturally.  But more important, the true music-lover demonstrates affection with an on-going commitment to the venue.  We buy more tickets to the things we like.  We subscribe in order to guarantee both the financial health of the group and our own ability to get great seats to the special nights.  And we're happy to be part of the regulars whom we see each time in their assigned positions on the main floor or in the gallery.

One other point here is that an audience gets to share the love as a community.  We all applaud.  We hear the noise around us as we cheer.  We add our own voices to the throng as the artists take their bows.  We make our own kind of love with one another for that brief time before we grab out coats and dash to the parking lot.

Sometimes, the concert will provoke the love to a different level.  Once in awhile, a magical performance casts a spell and the audience is actually silent at the end.  It only happens once every few years, but when it does, that super-charged air surrounding the people onstage and in the audience vibrates with its own kind of zero-decibel roar.  More often, the fans are so charged up that they don't even wait for the final notes to disappear before clapping and screaming and shouting.  Some composers even wrote their endings specifically to rouse the audience into a frenzy which cannot be stopped even by the most routine of stick-wavers.

It's love all right.  Love which is transmitted back and forth. Over, under, around and through (as the old cigarette ads used to say).  It's electric in every sense - crackling with sparks and coursing throughout the hall.

Think about all the love you've shared - and in public, yet!  That's right.  Love.  L-o-v-e.  Maybe that's why the stereotypical female wants so much to take her guy to the opera or the ballet.  She loves it and wants to share that love with him.  Perhaps we've stumbled onto one of the zillion reasons that stereotypical males resist it at every turn and fight going tooth and nail.  Admit it, ladies.  Haven't you, at least once or twice, lured him to the concert with the promise of his-kind-of-love later that night?  And guys, haven't you put up with some lame-excuse-for-an-evening's-entertainment just because you knew that she'd express her love and gratitude in the way you hoped?


Well, love does strange things to people, and makes them do strange things.  It's immense and overpowering, yet at the same time uplifting and even spiritual.

It might sound silly, but next time you're at Orchestra Hall, or the Opera House, or, perhaps even more importantly, at one of the smaller auditoriums around town, do something really radical.  Quietly and unobtrusively, pat something.  The seat, a doorway, the wall... even the edge of the stage if you're in Row A.  Like an adored pet, give the place a gentle touch and think to yourself, "Gee, I love this place."

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Considered by the Editor of CityTalk, but not used